A groundbreaking new study found zero transmissions occurred between HIV-positive men with an “undetectable viral load” due to treatment, and their HIV-negative partners, across thousands of instances of anal sex without a condom.
The Opposites Attract study, led by professor Andrew Grulich from the Kirby Institute, followed a cohort of 358 gay male couples – one partner HIV-positive, the other HIV-negative – in Australia, Thailand and Brazil.
The HIV-positive partners in the study had an “undetectable viral load”, meaning they are on treatment to suppress the virus so it is undetectable in the blood.
Not a single HIV transmission occurred across the almost 17,000 times participants reported having anal sex without a condom.
12,000 of those sexual encounters were protected solely by the HIV-positive partner’s undetectable viral load, and in the other 5,000, the HIV-negative partner was also taking a drug to protect against contracting HIV, known as PrEP.
“It really does confirm that undetectable viral load is completely effective at preventing transmissions in gay couples,” Grulich told BuzzFeed News from Paris, where he is presenting the research to the International Aids Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Science.
“Essentially, we’re documenting that this is a form of safe sex for couples in this situation.”